Project: International Security Department

Associate Fellow, International Security

For the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to complement and strengthen the landscape of existing instruments effectively, states and implementing bodies need to take steps to reduce the impact of clashes or overlaps, and explore synergies with related instruments and measures.

Photo: Science Faction/Getty Images.Photo: Science Faction/Getty Images.

The ATT has the potential to strengthen the effectiveness of a host of related arms control instruments and increase transparency and responsibility in arms transfers. It has the potential to improve national and international weapons control capacities, and ultimately to decrease illicit arms trade, insecurity and corruption. However, for the treaty to complement and strengthen the landscape of existing instruments effectively, states and implementing bodies need to take steps to reduce the impact of clashes or overlaps, and explore synergies with related instruments and measures.

The following is a collection of ideas and recommendations for states considering accession or in the early phases of treaty implementation. These ideas relate, in particular, to the ATT’s relationship with other instruments and policies.

  • Interaction with relevant instruments and implementing agencies should be ensured at the onset of ATT implementation. Dedicated sessions during the ATT Conferences of States Parties should discuss potential connections between the ATT and other instruments and draw lessons from implementation of such measures. States should fund research into the ATT’s cross-cutting effects, including detailed potential benefits and potential connections between the ATT and other instruments – and including lessons from implementing other measures. States should take steps to ensure that different levels of commitment between instruments will not serve to undermine the norms of the PoA and Firearms Protocol.

  • The ATT Secretariat could build on the states’ participation in other instruments and other organizations, such as the UNODC, World Customs Organization (WCO) and Interpol, and seek to establish regular, working-level interaction with the secretariats of these bodies to ensure timely and comprehensive information flow, and to maximize the complementarity and effectiveness of all related instruments. Practical synergies could be sought between the support structures underpinning related instruments, through organization of joint events – between for example: the ATT and UNROCA on reporting; the ATT and the PoA on national arrangements and diversion of arms; and the ATT and regional organizations on regional aspects of the ATT.

  • There should be further cooperation between the WCO, Interpol and national control agencies over implementation of the ATT. States should support and facilitate such cooperation. 

  • In discussions on transparency and reporting obligations under the ATT, states parties should examine the possibilities for harmonizing and linking the ATT categories with those commonly used by the WCO – for example, in UN Comtrade reporting. To increase synergies with other instruments and to avoid reporting fatigue and confusion, states should look into improving existing electronic tools and databases and developing new capabilities.

  • States parties could take into account end users’ possible participation in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICoC). Future ATT deliberations should address the treaty’s interaction with instruments to combat terrorism and piracy and establish means to enhance the controls on the arms-related actions of private military companies.